Several years ago at Interbike’s On Dirt Demo I came across a hitch-mount bike rack that got me inexplicably excited. Shimmering int he desert heat, gleaming of anodized aluminum, the Küat rack shone bright in the noonday sun. A sudden lust welled inside me.
For the longest time my cars have had a Thule rack attached to the back hitch and until I saw the Kuat (I’m going to drop the annoying umlaut at this point) I didn’t know I was looking for something better. Racks, up until that moment, were always synonymous with “heavy,” “cumbersome” and “unimaginative.” Not so with the Kuat, which features lightweight aluminum tubing, easy raising and lowering (thanks to a well designed aluminum handle) and—wait for it—a built-in bike repair stand. Here is my trusty road bike hanging from the Kuat post ride getting a nice wash-down.
This has got to be one of the best ideas, ever. No more trailside repairs while trying to work with a bike strapped into the rack. Simply lift up the post and clamp the bike into it. Brilliant.
The Kuat guys were swamped with requests for review units when first we met, but since then they’ve been working with my friend Julie for their PR. When she called me out of the blue and asked if I wanted to review the Kuat I was incredibly stoked. I’ve had the rack on my Saturn for a few weeks now and have been able to test it with both road and mountain bikes. (The Kuat fits bikes with up to 29” wheels.)
Assembly of the Kuat was incredibly easy thanks to well-written instructions and a supplied allen-wrench. It took less than 20 minutes to set up the rack and mount it to my car. There’s a locking hitch receiver bolt that matches the key of the built-in locking system and the box came with numerous spare keys.
The rack mounts to my receiver hitch more securely than any others I’ve tested thanks to a hand-tightneing cam system that expands a bolt int he receiver arm in the same way that a headset tightens into a steerer tube. As a result the rack doesn’t bounce around under load.
The Kuat is easy to lift and lower, though one of my few complaints about the rack is that while it’s smooth enough to grab the lever and lower the rack with one hand it really requires two—there’s no “stop” at the horizontal point so a few times I’ve banged the rack onto the ground when it’s lowered quickly and I wasn’t holding it to click it into place.
On my model the only other issue is with the arm that becomes the bike stand. A spring-loaded ball pops into a detent int he frame to hold the arm without twisting, but my unit the ball on the arm doesn’t pop out far enough. Thats’ not a big deal since the rig also has a quick-release lever to tighten the arm, but it means that heavy mountain bikes are more likely to sway on my repair stand than one that’s properly functioning.
Aesthetically the Kuat is much better looking than anything I’ve used. It’s not just a hunk of steel on the back of a car, it’s a piece of sculpture. And since it’s made of aluminum it’s lighter than other racks, which means that there’s less gas used when driving around with the rack attached.
The Kuat NV is about $500 retail with the two-bike setup, though an add-on is available to make it a four-bike rack. There are three other models in the line, including the smaller Sherpa, Alpha and Beta racks.
Plenty of additional information is available at the Kuat website.